There is a high prevalence of overweight among U.S. young adults and the intergenerational implications of excess weight gain at this life stage are great. We used Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) study data to identify personal, behavioral, and environmental factors that predicted healthy weight maintenance during the transition from adolescence to adulthood and as individuals progressed from the third to fourth decade of life. The sample included 1120 young adults who were secondary school students in Minneapolis-St. Paul at Time 1 (1998–1999) and responded at follow-ups in 2008–2009 and 2015–2016. Results showed individual factors and multiple environmental factors contribute to maintenance. The most consistent findings suggest that having higher body satisfaction and avoiding unhealthy weight control behaviors (e.g., skipping meals) and dieting are protective against excess weight gain for women and men. For example, the odds ratio associated with a one standard deviation increase in the probability of using an extreme weight control behavior from adolescence and adulthood was 0.67 (CI: 0.54, 0.84) among women and 0.34 (CI: 0.12, 0.96) among men indicating decreased odds of maintaining a healthy weight. Social support for healthy eating and physical activity were protective whereas close relationships with individuals who were dieting (e.g., parents, significant others) reduced the likelihood of maintaining a healthy weight. Primary prevention strategies should continue beyond adolescence and involve peer social support to encourage young people at a healthy weight to be satisfied with their shape/size and avoid restrictive weight control behaviors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by Grant Number R01HL116892 (PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Winkler's time was supported by training grant T32DK083250 from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (PI: Jeffery).
- Eating behavior
- Physical activity
- Weight status
- Young adulthood